What the Bleep Do Native Americans Know?
The Language of Spirituality Will Open Your Eyes
The Myth of Western Superiority
Back in the early 20th century at the dawn of modern physics, pioneering scientists like Niels Bohr, Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg were making discoveries that would overturn everything we thought we knew about the way the world worked as they developed what would come to be known as quantum physics. The field continues to intrigue, mystify, and in many instances, defy explanation to this day. For some people, that is. (continue below)
What's This "We," Kemo Sabe?
Of course, the term "discovery" is relative, the way that Columbus "discovered" people who were already there. Native Americans had developed sophisticated concepts of how the world works centuries before the breakthroughs of western physicists. What they also had, that western physicists didn't, were verb-based languages suitable for describing the dynamic interactions within the world of quantum physics and the nature of reality. It wasn't too far into the 20th century that Heisenberg lamented the limitations of noun-heavy western languages in explaining physics. Soon, math was the only language that physicists could speak in, and even that had its biases.
Benjamin Whorf To The Rescue, Sort Of
Meanwhile, out on the fringes of science, a Yale scholar named Benjamin Whorf threw himself into the study of Hopi and other native languages. His work revealed a unique language structure quite dissimilar from Indo-European languages, but strikingly capable of describing the dynamic world of quantum physics. He eventually suffered the fate of one who was ahead of his time -- i.e, the slings and arrows of others who put great effort, but little actual understanding, into trying to discredit him.
David Bohm, To The Rescue of Benjamin Whorf
One of the most brilliant physicists of the 20th century, David Bohm a colleague of Albert Einstein and Krishnamurti, upset the scientific apple cart when he moved beyond the Theory of Relativity and quantum physics to define a whole new paradigm of physics and consciousness, one that bolstered the theories of Whorf and mirrored the Hopi worldview.
Back to the Beginning
It was near the end of his life when Bohm was able to complete the circle between modern physics and ancient knowledge. Just before his death in 1992, he attended the first ever meeting between linguists, western physicists and Native American scholars and elders at the Fetzer Institute. At that conference, it became apparent for the first time that Native America and modern science had a lot more in common than anyone ever dreamed. The meeting spawned a series of dialogues, now dubbed "The Language of Spirit," that continue to this day, exploring the convergence of modern physics, reality, language and Native America.
Now, Get The Whole Story
I was fortunate enough to meet the late Dan "Moonhawk" Alford in 1999. Alford, a linguist specializing in Native languages, and a student of physics, offered me a chance to attend that year's "by invitation only" conference in Banff, Alberta, Canada. It was a life-changing event for me. I immediately arranged to film the next one, scheduled for Albuquerque, New Mexico, with the hope of creating a movie to tell this inspiring story. The Language of Spirituality is the result. This 62-minute documentary, which premiered at the 2005 Santa Fe Film Festival, features interviews with participants in the dialogues, including Alford, Fred Alan Wolf ("What The Bleep Do We Know?"), Bohm colleague F. David Peat and Blackfoot scholar Leroy Little Bear, who speak about the dialogues and the implications for the future.
The movie would not have been possible without the help of Glenn Parry, founder of the SEED Graduate Institute, which hosted the Language of Spirit conference for several years.
Finally, you can listen to an interview I did about "The Language of Spirituality" in August of 2013 with Tiokasin Ghosthorse, host of First Voices Indigenous Radio.
Producer of The Language of Spirituality